Being "college ready"
High school is a time to build foundation skills to last a lifetime. Pursuing a challenging course of study in high school will keep doors open in employment and in education. Although it is true that not everyone will go to college, taking the types of classes required for college admission is a good option for most students. This is called being "college ready." The coursework may be rigorous, but for most young people, higher expectations lead to higher achievement.
General requirements for college preparation include:
- Four years of English. This means taking a language arts class every year. This will also be required for graduation in Oregon for the class of 2009. The class work includes writing, composition, speech, and literature.
- Three or four years of math. Math is essential for success in college and work. Starting with algebra your child will need at least 3 years of math, taking courses such as advanced algebra, trigonometry, or calculus.
- Two to three years of science. Science teaches students to think analytically and apply theories to reality. Laboratory classes let students test what they have learned through hands-on experimentation. Recommended science classes include one year of biology, one year of chemistry or physics, and one year of earth/space science, advanced biology, advanced chemistry, or physics.
- Three years of social studies. Social studies help your child understand local and world events by studying the culture and history that has shaped them. Recommended classes include U.S. history, government, world history, world geography, and economics.
- Two or more years of one foreign language. Foreign language study shows colleges your child is willing to stretch beyond the basics. Many colleges require at least two years of foreign language study, and some prefer more.
- Electives. Electives are classes that are not required for graduation but can help your child explore interests and acquire skills. Classes in art, music, and general career areas (for example, health occupations, computers, and business) are often considered electives. You can help your child choose electives that match his or her goals.
Why are math and science so important?
Research shows that taking rigorous mathematics and laboratory science courses, such as calculus and chemistry, is a good predictor of academic success and a gateway to college. However, this requires your student to take algebra early, often in 8th grade or earlier. The National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS) reveals:
- 83 percent of students who took algebra I and geometry in secondary school went to college within two years of graduation, whereas only 36 percent of those who did not take these courses enrolled.
- 89 percent of students who took chemistry in high school went to college, whereas only 43 percent of the students who did not enrolled.
Parents own feelings about their experiences with math and science often affect their children's choices. If a parent conveys that they feel inadequate in their knowledge and skills, the children can come to doubt their own abilities. They will avoid taking these classes in high school, thus reducing their options for the future.